Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Swamp Thing 26, originally released December 4th, 2013.
Drew: I always get awkward when meeting new people: between my own anxiety over making a good impression and trying to size them up myself, genuine interactions often get squeezed out. These problems are only exacerbated when it comes to meeting new coworkers, where there are actual stakes that you get along, and the specter of “professionalism” adds pressure to the situation. I should mention here that I have a great relationship with my coworkers, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel super awkward on my first day, and probably postured more than necessary to make them like me. Jason Woodrue faces similar awkwardness as the new Avatar of the Green, and works way too hard to impress his new bosses.
The issue follows Woodrue on two fronts: as he uses violence to assert his power in the present, and as Alec explores Woodrue’s memories to understand how he got to this point. Alec is basically the Ghost of Peter Parker at this point: no real control over Swamp Thing, but unlimited access to his memories. There, he discovers that Woodrue had long desired to be the Avatar of the Green, ever since he first learned about the “green men.” Woodrue sought — and eventually found — the parliament of trees, but they wouldn’t have him. When they finally called upon him to save Alec, they gave him small control over seeds. He spent all of his time selling his soul over and over again to magicians who could incrementally increase his powers, becoming the Seeder we met back in issue 19.
I want to pause here to comment on just how brilliant this idea is. The Parliament, being prideful sons-of-birches, refused to make Woodrue the Avatar when he asked, but they were impressed enough with his enthusiasm to keep his resume on file. The next time they need a favor, they call him up, and thank him with what they think is a paltry award. Woodrue decides to take things into his own hands at this point, and gives up his own humanity to get more power, further impressing the Parliament. Now, as the Avatar, he feels he has to further impress them — justifying their decision to give him the title. At its core, this story is boilerplate hiring politics, which writer Charles Soule masterfully integrates into his supernatural world of walking plant-men. Woodrue just wants to wow his bosses on the first day.
How does he do that? Why, by severing ties with all of Alec’s old allies. His first act is chasing away Capucine, but he soon sets his sights higher: Buddy Baker, (presumed) Avatar of the Red. Having given up his humanity long ago, Woodrue is Green to the core, and believes that a coup against the Red is exactly what the Parliament wants. Only, Buddy isn’t the Avatar and he isn’t so easily dispatched.
It’s an empowering moment of badassery for Buddy (who kind of needed a win, anyway), but it’s also perfectly staged by Artist Jesus Saiz. It’s a classic slow zoom in on the action to up the tension, only the “camera” never moves. In keeping the background continuous between the panels, Saiz emphasizes the motion between them. We aren’t getting closer to Buddy’s face; he’s getting closer to us. Saiz then reverses Buddy’s direction, allowing him (and Woodrue) to recede into the distance. Importantly, Woodrue’s fall is not quite encapsulated in a panel, emphasizing just how big the drop really is.
Once Woodrue is done dusting himself off, he still needs to do something to save face with the Green, so decides to destroy a logging operation. It seems like typical Swamp Thing environmentalism until Soule and Saiz reveal that Woodrue apparently killed all of the people, too.It’s a gruesome image, made all the more disturbing by Woodrue’s blithe observation about the color of the blood. Years of killing in the name of gaining more power has completely desensitized Woodrue to death. He’s a sociopath, which I suspect will lead to his downfall — overreaching very recently led to a changing of the guard over in the Rot, and while the Bakers may be too preoccupied to defend the Red, it seems like the rest of the world (including, you know, all of the heroes) might object to killing a village in cold blood.
As always, I’m impressed with basically all of Soule’s ideas, and could not be happier with Saiz’s art. This is a killer creative team, and I’m glad that they have such a wide playground to explore. I almost wish this Seeder arc could expand into a Superior Swamp Thing ongoing. What do you think, Shelby? Were you as happy with everything here as I was?
Shelby: Of course I was, which is impressive considering the title character wasn’t really in it. I really like the politics going on in the Parliament; I don’t know why, but the fact that the former avatars are petty and make mistakes just like any other group would makes them so much more interesting. And scary: they just imbued a sociopath with all the powers of the Green thanks to their petty in-fighting, and there is bound to be a major backlash.
I love how callous Woodrue is in the face of life outside the Green. Even before he squeezed the blood out of that mining village, I was shocked that he killed every animal in the vicinity of his fight with Buddy.
That is an astounding lack of regard for a lot of living creatures. Woodrue continues to display a lack of understanding for the importance of balance. Or maybe he just doesn’t care about it; either way, demonstrations like that are not going to be ignored by the Red for long.
So where does this leave the world of the Red and the Green? We’ve got rampaging avatars on both sides; at least on the Green side, the Parliament could realize their mistake and try to reinstate Alec. It seems that Abby and the Parliament of Rot are the only ones doing things right. God, I hope Buddy and (reinstated) Alec have to team up with Abby to right the imbalance the Red and Green have created. It would be like Rotworld all over again, but awesomer because they’d have badass Abby on their side. In any case, I continue to be super impressed with Soule’s work on this title; I was afraid I would pine for Scott Snyder, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken (ok, it’s not as good a pun as “sons-of-birches,” I’m doing my best here).
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?